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No. Ten.

A soft sigh escaped out of Cody’s mouth as he slumbered on the bed’s edge.

The cat often made noises as he slept, especially in the hours of the morning just before sunrise, and this morning he was particularly vocal. His dreams were just that intense.

In the waking hours earlier in the day, he had learned the fate of his bunny friend. He had learned he could talk with a bird. He had learned the near-hopelessness of learning to talk with a squirrel. He hard learned much and slept periodically in an effort to process it all, but the deep sleep in which he found himself now enabled it all.

Or that’s what he told himself as he muttered and mewed lightly in between deep breaths.

Sometimes, when his people had turned off his Cat TV, the big TV stayed on, with different images shown on it. Many were of people-made things like cities or rollercoasters; some were of animals. Most were not cool or interesting like he was, but there was one of an animal submerged in the deepness of the oceans—a whale, be would later hear it called—moving in a slow motion elegance that made even the nimble house cat take notice. It looked like it was flying.

And that’s exactly what the whale was doing in his dreams: Flying. With him riding on its back, reins in his paws—golden reins attached to a golden bridle, gripped in the whale’s enormous jaw.

Each flap of the whale’s tail propelled them further and faster, Cody shifting his weight to keep in-step with the motion of the oceanless marine mammal, their destination unknown but with an inexplicable feeling Cody recognized as his purpose. This ridiculous scenario of him riding the back of a whale would take him to his purpose.

Ridiculous as it seemed, Cody couldn’t help but enjoy it. His ancestors, after all, were once worshipped as deities, so he could deal with a little silliness in his dreams of himself, a cat, riding the back of a humpback whale, singing as they catapulted themselves through space and through time.

Another sigh took its own flight from his mouth.

He opened his eyes slowly, hearing something moving in the yard on the other side of the window coverings. Cody was on his feet in an instant, pacing back and forth along the windows in the bedroom, the living room, the kitchen, all of which flanked the back yard. Whatever was out there, he could hear it, sense it, trespassing on his territory. Just it wait until he gets to an open window or, better yet, an open door.

But his people continued to sleep, mumbling through their human mouths in a tone heavy with annoyance that he should “quiet down” or “stop it already.” Fools! Didn’t they know something was intruding in his (fine, their) back yard? Didn’t they care?

Finally, the older of the person stirred, arose with a yawn and opened the window coverings, allowing the new sun to spill into the home, bringing both brilliance and warmth. Cody squinted his eyes in welcoming delight before hopping into the windowsill to see what he could see in the time that had lapsed since becoming aware of the presence of something in the yard, but he saw nothing. Nothing moving, anyway.

There was something in the yard, though it wasn’t moving.

The odd angle at which he sat and stared made it appear to be little more than a dark line, barely even a blot on the still-green grass of his yard, near the lone tree on the tiny lot, a tree standing in contrasting mockery of the enormous pecan tree in the center of the neighborhood, but a tree that provided shade and a nice place to bring relief to the ache in his paws when he felt the need to scratch something with his claws.

Some hour or so later, following feeding time and a trip or two to the litter box (OK, three—but he’d had a lot of water that morning, excited as he was), the back door was finally opened, and Cody darted out into the morning’s chilled air.

He ran about and smelled right away what had been in his yard: That damn squirrel.

But there was something else, too, that caught not only his sense of smell but also highlighted his visual acuity: The dark line he had noticed from the windowsill.

He approached with caution and sat down to examine this familiar yet foreign object.

It was a bird’s feather—that much he recognized—but this feather was enormous. A single feather nearly as long as he was, minus his tail, thick and heavy and varying shades of light and darkness, despite the evil he seemed to sense from it.

He curled his tail about his body as he sat, continuing to stare with uneasy interest. Whatever had owned this feather must be tremendously huge. He wondered if whatever had owned this feather would be missing it. He wondered if whatever had owned this feather would come looking for it.

“Wah-wah-wah-wah-wah-wah,” he heard his person saying in his direction.

Wait, he thought; what was that one word they had said?

“Bigger.”

Yes, he supposed; the feather is bigger than me. Then the monster that owns it much be ginormous!

“Wah-wah-wah-wah-wah-wah-wah-wah,” the person went on before he heard the one word that resonated, that struck him as an arrow aligned with feathers as powerfully stiff as that which now lay at his feet: Owl.

Was this feather from the same owl that killed my bunny? Cody wondered, emotions churning in him, rising like those of a storm. Yet his exterior remained calm.

Looking more closely at the feather, he noticed tiny nicks in the calamus—nicks that looked like tooth marks, as though something had been gnawing on this feather. But whatever had done the gnawing had apparently not intended to damage or destroy it; the whole of the feather was still meticulously intact. Apart from the tooth marks and the aroma of old nuts, it seemed straight from the wing of whatever owl had lost it.

Without this feather, could the owl still fly? Did he miss it? Is he going to come looking for it? Will he blame me for taking it?

Odd thoughts raced through his mind as the sun continued its ascent.

And then it hit him as to what had caused those marks on the feather’s shaft, why the feather smelled of pecans, how the feather had come to be in his back yard at his very feet: Squirrel.

“Chirp-chirp?” it said as Cody turned slowly towards the tree, their eyes locking.

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